By Laurelle Walsh
The Merc Playhouse presents a Readers Theater production of Morning’s at Seven, a comedy by Paul Osborn, on Friday and Saturday (Feb. 20–21) at 7 p.m. Admission is by donation.
The Tony Award-winning play first opened on Broadway in 1939, and was followed by critically acclaimed revivals in 1980 and 2002. The Merc Readers Theater production, with no costumes, no sets and no props, directs the audience’s focus to the lines and the bittersweet stories being shared, director Ashley Lodato said.
The story, set in a small Midwestern town, revolves around four aging sisters and their quirky families.
“It’s a sweet play about family relationships and family dysfunction,” Lodato said. “It’s set in the 1930s but the issues and themes are timeless: sibling relationships, parent-child relationships, marriages, desired marriages, infidelity and aging.”
A series of family crises run through the dialogue, which is both witty and real. Tensions come to a head when Ida’s coddled middle-aged son, Homer, brings his fiancée home to meet his eccentric family for the first time in 12 years.
“One of the goals of Readers Theater is to share stories without all the rigamarole of a full production,” Lodato said. “Another goal is to get some new faces up on stage.”
Some of the actors have been on The Merc stage before, and others have performed in other capacities around the valley. And while it may have been a few years since some were in their last play, at the first rehearsal almost all of the actors “had a story about how they were in a play in eighth grade and played the line-less shepherd, or third elephant, or some other insignificant role,” Lodato said.
The four sisters are played by Sally Gracie as Esther, Christine Kendall as Arry, Mary Milka as Ida, and Ronda Bradeen as Cora. Don Nelson, John Roth and George Schneider play the husbands Carl, Thor and David. Don McIvor plays mama’s boy Homer, and Sarah Brooks plays the fiancée, Myrtle.
“The actors are doing a great job of bringing definition and humanity to their characters,” said Lodato.
The play’s title comes from Robert Browning’s drama in verse, “Pippa Passes:”
“The year’s at the spring,
And day’s at the morn;
Morning’s at seven;
The hillside’s dew-pearled;
The lark’s on the wing;
The snail’s on the thorn;
God’s in His heaven –
All’s right with the world!”
The verse’s final line carries the most significance, said Lodato, who discussed the possible meanings of the play’s title with the actors. The players agreed on the message of the story, she said: This is life; It’s all OK; It’s all gonna be OK.
“The phrase, ‘morning’s at seven,’ doesn’t come up at all,” she said. “But the play itself shows how the day comes, the night comes and the morning comes again the next day.”
For more information, call The Merc Playhouse at 997-7529 or go to the website, mercplayhouse.org.